Thanksgiving

TD133: A Trucker Gives Thanks

We truckers often feel under-appreciated; and rightly so. We deliver virtually every product that everyone owns, yet we’re still considered a nuisance to the road. But every once in a while, we truckers do get some recognition. Not everyone in the trucking industry is so lucky.

The most obvious example of driver’s being appreciated is the aptly named National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, which takes place each September. But many carriers also have Driver Appreciation Days throughout the year where they give away prizes and grill burgers and brats for their drivers. I attended one of these recently and had the opportunity to chat with the CEO of my company. Discussing how things could improve with the head honcho while eating french toast and bacon! How can you beat that?

Additionally, shippers and receivers sometimes give us products for no apparent reason. I got full access to a rack of packaged cookies not too long ago and my friend DriverChrisMc gets a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s every time he picks up a load there. Hey, I just discovered something good about pulling a reefer! And I just found one more reason to curse his name. ?

The forgotten people

So clearly we truckers get more accolades than our whiny little selves let on. But what about all the forgotten people who keep the trucking industry rolling? Last time I checked, there wasn’t a National Shower Cleaners Week. So let’s start there. Here’s a list of unsung heroes who keep the trucking industry rolling.

Thank you to the truck stop maintenance people

These jack of all trades do everything from cleaning showers, to mopping up a kid’s puke, to power washing the fuel bays, to trying to keep up with the onslaught of the restrooms. Now I know many of you are thinking, “What’s this idiot talking about? Why would we thank these people? The truck stops are always filthy!” 

Okay. I’ll admit that truck stops often aren’t as clean as we’d like. But think about how nasty they’d be without these good folks? Here’s an idea; if we truckers want cleaner facilities, how about we quit being such slobs?

There is absolutely no reasons to spray water all over the sink area. I brush my teeth and knock down my Alfalfa cowlick every single day without soaking the countertop and the floor. And if a little water does splash out of the sink, it’s super easy to grab a paper towel and wipe up your mess before you leave.

Another little tip to help with the cleanliness. I know this is going to come as a complete surprise to some of you, but human waste belongs IN a toilet, not somewhere in the vicinity of a toilet. First off, toilet paper goes INTO the toilet as does your poop. Unless you’ve had an emergency Hershey squirt, there is absolutely no reason for it to be on the floor or the walls. 

As for #2, you women sit down for crying out loud, so why is it that The Evil Overlord could write a novel called “Horrors of the Ladies’ Room”? And men, well, if you can aim a pea shooter or a squirt gun, then why can’t you hit your friggin’ target in the john? It is kinda shaped like a gun barrel, ya know. Any hey, if you’re not going to use a urinal, lift the toilet seat. I know there’s not women coming into the men’s room, but we guys still have to sit on those seats.

Now for the parking lots. Who do you think puts all that trash in the parking lot? And speaking of pee lots, do you really think the truck stop employees are the ones pissing in the parking lot? Nope. It’s us truckers! But these good maintenance people have to clean it all up.

Basically, if we truckers didn’t act like our mom was following us around and cleaning up after us, the maintenance people would not only have an easier job, but they’d also be able to keep things cleaner. Besides, I’m pretty sure your mom would kick you square in the ass if you left her bathroom sink covered in water and shaving stubble. Let alone what your wife would do to you.

So why do it to the maintenance crew? If that’s not convincing enough, look at it this way. If you were doing that job, how would you feel about your sloppiness? If you said you wouldn’t care; then you’re a liar-liar and I kinda hope your pants do catch on fire.

So thank you to the maintenance crew. We know you have a thankless job, but we’re lucky to have you and we appreciate the job you do. Obviously, we’ll appreciate you even more if we don’t find wads of hair in the shower drain or poop streaks in the toilet. Thanks.

Thank you to the truck stop service workers and managers

We all know how big of jerks some truckers can be. Now imagine your job is interacting with them all… day… long. They listen to us bitch and moan about our screwed up fuel card, despite the fact that it’s not their fault. They give us cash advances and they even still send faxes for drivers who are still living in the 80’s. They dish up deli goods, brew our coffee and make the Pilot/Flying J’s smell like someone had a early morning cinna-gasm. 

The ones I feel most sorry for are the young pretty female cashiers. We’ve all heard truckers flirting with them. News flash, truckers; no attractive young woman wants to flirt with a middle-aged, smelly trucker wearing grease-stained clothes and exhaling a toxic mixture of cigarettes and coffee. Just assume if she wanted to flirt with older guys all day long, she’d be working at Hooter’s or twirling around a pole for a living.

In short, truck stop cashiers and managers do whatever it takes to keep us truckers fed and caffeinated so we can keep those big wheels rolling. So please take it easy on them. And thank you folks for all the things you do to keep the truck stops running smoothly.

P.S. Drivers: Your coffee stirrer and empty creamer packets belong in the trash, not on the countertop. Again, your mother doesn’t work here. 

Thank you to all the restaurant staff

Whether it’s the ever-present Subway, a tantalizing Taco Hell, or a full-service restaurant like Denny’s or Iron Skillet, we truckers should appreciate the job these folks are doing. 

Many of these eateries are open 24/7, which means someone is always working the graveyard shift so you can get some grub when you’re pulling an all-night drive.

Or maybe you just want to get out of the truck to relax for a while. Lord knows it’s hard to chill out in the driver’s lounge when you’ve got a bunch of drivers screaming over each other about the bad call the referee just made. Or worse, a discussion of politics breaks out. God help us. If only we could elect one of these guys as our President. They all seem to think they’ve got it all figured out. Uh huh. 

As you regular listeners/readers know, I eat most of my meals in my truck. But every once in a while, even cheapskates like me need to escape the cab for a while. It’s nice to go inside and have a seat at a real table instead eating off that crusty old road atlas that doubles as a TV tray. Sometimes I forget how comforting it is to have a friendly waiter or waitress plop a plate of food in front of you and keep your glass of iced tea filled.     

And of course, they couldn’t serve up the food at all if someone wasn’t standing over that hot stove back in the kitchen. Maybe I appreciate these cooks a bit more than the average Joe because I can’t cook to save my life. If I can’t pop the top off a package and stick it in a microwave, ain’t no one getting fed around me. 

So thanks to all the restaurant personnel who keep us truckers fed and for providing us with the closest thing to home we can have without actually being there. 

Thank you to the mechanics

No one likes going to the shop. I get that. But what’s worse? Taking a shower or sitting in a driver’s lounge while your truck is being worked on; or you crawling underneath your truck in the pee lot to diagnose and fix the problem yourself? I have the mechanical aptitude of a toothbrush, so I probably appreciate these hard-working folks far more than those of you who could fix your trucks if you wanted to. 

The times I appreciate these mechanics the most is when I’m broken down on the side of the highway. I get to sit in my nice, safe cab while the mechanic proceeds to remove a tire with one eye, while the other one is keeping tabs on all the passing cars.

These road calls are extremely dangerous, drivers. Try to remember that and get to an exit ramp or somewhere completely off the road if possible. I don’t know how much these guys are getting paid, but I’m sure it’s not enough to dodge traffic and fix your flat tire in the pouring rain. 

So when you see a broken down vehicle on the road, try to move over a lane to give them some breathing room. I’m amazed at how many truckers I see blow by without changing lanes or even easing off the throttle. I know traffic doesn’t always allow a lane change, but that shouldn’t keep you from backing out of the throttle a bit, now should it? 

So thanks to the mechanics who fix our flats, replace our alternators, and troubleshoot intermittent electronic problems that drive us battier than Batman driving the Batmobile into the Batcave. 

Yes, you sometimes take longer than I’d like to fix my truck, but from now on I’m going to try to think of it like this. If I had to fix my own truck, it would take me ten times longer than it will for you to do it. And that’s assuming I’m capable of doing anything more complicated than changing a headlight bulb. Hmmmm… better make that 20x faster.

Thanks to the dispatchers… yes, I really did just say that

Personally, I can’t see why anyone would voluntarily become a trucking dispatcher, but I’m thankful that there are enough insane people out there to fill the positions. 

First, you’re talking to truck drivers all day. There are three types of calls dispatchers take.

  1. The informational request – Stuff happens throughout a trucker’s day. We sometimes find ourselves with an incorrect pickup or delivery number. We have questions about a load or a customer. Perhaps we have a question about company policy. Or maybe we need some out-of-route fuel set up. These calls are usually the easiest part of their day.
  2. The friendly blabbermouth – There is a school of thought that you should call your dispatcher fairly often to form a good relationship with them. I’m just going to come out and say that this is flat-out wrong. I’ve had a lot of dispatchers over the years and not one has ever told me they like it when a driver calls just to chat. Dispatchers have a lot to do, so it makes it awkward for them because they need to get off the phone to help other drivers, but they don’t want to offend the blabbermouth either.
  3. The disgruntled driver – I’ve never had a dispatcher who didn’t appreciate the fact that I only call when I need something. Furthermore, if it’s just information I need, usually I can get an answer with a quick computer message. Dispatchers truly love that. But when I do have a serious problem, it often warrants a phone call. And I’m usually not in a good mood. Maybe it’s looking like they’re going to have trouble getting me home on time. Or perhaps they’re expecting me to be ready to drive an 11-hour shift, twelve hours from now after I’ve just woken up from 8 hours of sleep. Whatever the situation, these are not fun phone conversations for either party involved.

As you can see, only one of these types of driver interactions are pleasant. And we drivers don’t really even know what goes on when they’re not on the phone with us. They’re busy screening our loads before they send them to us (at least the good ones do) to make sure we have the hours to run them. They’re pushing through detention pay and handling lumper transactions. And you know there’s some office politics going on too. 

It’s a fact. Dispatchers are pretty much universally despised by drivers. That rivalry is as old as the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. I don’t think that way though. I think dispatchers have a tough job that I wouldn’t want to do. And that makes me appreciate them more. Well, as long as they’re a good dispatcher http://abouttruckdriving.com/2009/05/05/truck-dispatchers/ who actually treats you with respect and has a cool enough head to know when you just need to blow off some steam. 

Now if you’re a bad dispatcher, all bets are off. Might I advise a different job? I hear the truck stops are hiring shower cleaners.

Thank you to the planners

Dispatchers for small carriers may actually handle the planning duties too, but most large trucking companies have stand-alone planners nowadays. Their sole purpose is to look at the loads available and assign it to the truck that is best-suited to cover it. Maybe that’s because you’re closest to the load. Or maybe you’re not, but it’s the best load to get you home for your proctologist appointment on Friday. 

My dislike of planners http://abouttruckdriving.com/2010/03/18/when-planners-dont/ is well-documented way back from my early days of blogging/podcasting. But the more I think about the complexity of their job, the more I have an appreciation for what they do. Not only are they usually handling large zones of the country and planning hundreds of trucks per day, but they’re often thinking two or three steps ahead.

One of the few times I’m truly pissed at my company is when it looks like I might not be getting home after my typical three weeks out. Yet in all my years with this company, I’ve probably not gotten home only three or four times. Not bad for 12 years. Now if you compare that number to how many times I’d given up hope that I was going to be able to get home, well, that’s a much bigger number. 

There have been many times when I’m calling dispatch and complaining about my situation, whether that’s getting home late or possibly not at all. It’s the day before I’m due home and still no plans come. Just as I resign myself to my fate, the planner usually comes through at 4:45 PM with some crazy series of loads that will have me home on time. 

Maybe I pick up a load headed the wrong direction, but I’m relaying with another driver who has a load going my way. I remember one time there was a combination of four loads/relays lined up just to get me home! That couldn’t have been easy, especially considering I’m just one of thousands of drivers they’re trying to get home. It’s truly impressive when you think about it. I often refer to what they do as “magic.”

So as I preach so often on this blog/podcast, I’m trying to look at the situation with a new set of eyes. Therefore, I’d like to thank all the planners for the miracles they pull off every day to keep us rolling.  

Thank you to the other office employees

There are numerous other jobs that make my driving job possible, but we don’t have time to go into great detail for everyone. 

Without the recruiter deciding I’m an awesome candidate, I would’t even have this job. Without Sales People, there would be no customers with freight. Without Customer Service Reps, the loads wouldn’t get booked and my load information would be wrong waaaaay more than the 99% that’s it’s correct. Without the Payroll department, I wouldn’t get paid, which would make The Evil Overlord slightly grumpy.

Obviously, there are the executives who keep everything running smoothly and who provide the job and the equipment to do it. I can honestly say that if I had to buy my own truck, I probably would’ve never been a truck driver. There’s also the Tech department that keep all the computers running so I can send messages from my truck instead of calling and bugging my dispatcher. And lest we forget, accessing Netflix over the company Wi-Fi.

Now one department that’s harder to thank, let alone love, is the Safety department. They’re pretty good at what they do, but obviously I wish we truckers were allowed to police ourselves. Unfortunately, there are too many of you outlaws out there who ruined it for the rest of us. Old time trucker, I’m looking at you. At least I can always count on the Safety department to walk me though the 8-hour split sleeper berth when I have to do it. You’d think I’d have it licked after 21 years, but it is what it is. 

So basically, a big thanks to everyone who works in the office to keep my truck moving and the money rolling in. I appreciate it almost as much as The Evil Overlord does. 

Another group that’s hard to thank is the shippers/receivers

I’m going to do my best here. After all, without their products, we truckers would have anything to haul. But I’ve got a qualifier before I go thanking them. 

If you’re a well-organized shipper/receiver who gets their trucks loaded or unloaded in a timely manner, then I’m truly thankful for you. To all you forklift drivers who drive that lift like it’s an extension of your body; thank you for doing your job so well. There are few things I love more than getting loaded in 15 minutes. Yes, it happens, but it’s very rare. 30 minutes is pretty awesome too. 

Now I do understand that some products simply take more time to load, but I would argue that if you can’t load a truck in less than 1-2 hours, you need to revamp your system. Maybe quit trying to save a buck or two by floor stacking everything? Or maybe you should face the realization that you’re not quite as efficient as you think you are. Maybe you could remedy that by setting your appointment times further apart because you’re always running behind schedule?

To sum up, if you’re an efficient shipper/receiver, thank you for respecting the driver’s time. But if you set unrealistic appointment times and have slow loaders that make a sloth look like Speedy Gonzales, then you can go suck eggs. And I’m not talking about those delicious Cadbury eggs. I’m talking about some eggs covered with chicken poop and full of blood clots. Bon appetit!     

Last but not least, I’d like to thank the 4-wheeler drivers

Yes, you heard me right. You can pick your jaw up off the floor now. You know, it’s common knowledge that we humans tend to focus on the bad things in life. I don’t know why that is and I wish that wasn’t the case, but there’s no denying it. 

We over-the-road truckers can be on the roads for up to 11 hours per day. We encounter thousands, possibly 10’s or even 100’s of thousands of cars per day depending where we are. 

Most of the day goes smoothly. The vast majority of these interactions between cars are trucks are handled perfectly by everyone involved. But if one 4-wheeler driver does something stupid or flat-out dangerous around us, that’s the thing that will stick in our craw all day long. Heck, we might even carry it into the next day.

But again, this takes a mind shift on our part. Yes, I’ve been guilty of bashing 4-wheelers numerous times in the Trucker Dump archives. And many times, rightly so. But it’s also important that we remember how many good 4-wheeler drivers there are out there. 

We encounter them every single day:

  • The utility worker in the Ford pickup that stayed back from the light so we could make that tight right turn. Much obliged, man. 
  • That soccer mom in the Honda minivan who ducked in behind us before the exit ramp instead of speeding up and cutting across three lanes of traffic in front of us. Thank you for not making me change my boxers today. We all know you can wear underwear for three or four days, right? ?
  • To the many cars and pickups that refrain from giving us the ol’ one-finger salute when they finally get around us after we found ourselves in a turtle race http://abouttruckdriving.com/2011/04/16/truckers-go-turtle-racing/. Thank you for your patience.
  • Remember that nice old guy in the Corvette who left a gap at the busy intersection so you could get onto the street from the side road? Much appreciated, old rich dude that I’m not at all jealous of. 
  • How about all the smart drivers who pass your big rig quickly so they aren’t riding alongside you for the next three miles? Thank you for not giving me a crick in my neck from constantly monitoring my mirror until you’ve passed. 
  • You know how you turn on your turn signal when you’re trying to change lanes and that 4-wheeler driver actually slowed down a bit instead of gassing on it for a change of pace? Not only do I thank you, but I think I may love you a little bit too.
  • What about all those freeway on-ramps where the driver is actually paying attention and they either slow down or speed up to merge properly? Thank you for not being one of those butt-munches that hasn’t figured out how to merge yet.
  • Or what about when you scooted into the center lane to help that Toyota SUV merge onto the freeway? Thank you for speeding up quickly so we can get back into the right lane as soon as possible. 

Yes, I’m certain that most of us encountered a bad 4-wheeler driver sometime today. But think of all the ones who passed by without incident. Do the numbers. 10 thousand, 100 thousand or more good drivers compared to the one or two bad ones that we’re focusing on.

So for my final thank you, I’d like to give a shout out to the group of people who are usually cited as being the trucker’s #1 enemy; 4-wheeler drivers. To all of you who do the little things to help us truckers navigate traffic; thank you. Even to those of you who simply don’t do anything stupid enough to draw our attention in the first place; I sincerely thank you.

For the rest of you selfish, knuckle-headed 4-wheeler drivers who cause us truckers daily torment, well, as far as I’m concerned, you can go play chicken with a friggin’ telephone pole. And I’m hoping you don’t have collision warning.

 

   

   

TD98: 5 Stresses Of Trucking Through The Holidays

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Everyone knows that the months of November and December are probably the two most stressful months of the year. Unless of course you’re Canadian. In that case it’s October and December. Honestly though. What kind of weirdos have Thanksgiving in October? 😉 This extra stress is freely available to both truckers and non-truckers. Now I know this may come off as whining, but honestly, we truckers have a lot to deal with around the holidays that normal folks don’t. So strap on your whine-filtering headphones and let’s get on with this.

Stress #1: Scheduling

Yeah, yeah. I know you non-truckers have this problem too. But scheduling is one of the biggest differences between us truckers and you non-truckers; you cats already know what days you’re going to have available. Truckers don’t. Heck, we rarely know what we’re doing tomorrow, let alone three or four weeks from now. One of the earliest articles I wrote was called, No Guarantees in Trucking. In much the same way The Evil Overlord complains about my inability to actually look under stuff to find something I’ve misplaced, that article title was actually a bit of an exaggeration. Okay. At least part of that statement is true anyway. Seriously though, guarantees are hard to come by in the trucking industry, especially when it comes to home time.

As I mentioned in the article, the only home time “guarantee” I’ve ever received was for Christmas. And actually it was more of a company policy than it was a guarantee. And keep in mind, this policy was not for New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t for Independence Day. Not even Thanksgiving Day gets this policy. Just Christmas. Notice I didn’t say the Christmas “season.” Just the day. The 25th of December. This policy does not extend to Christmas Eve, nor is there a guarantee on how many days you’ll have off. As pathetic as this Christmas home time policy is, at least it exists. Not all the carriers I’ve worked for have been so kind.

So there’s where the stress comes in. You’re trying to schedule things with family, but there are always a lot more of them than there are of you. And as much as we’d all like to think that the world revolves around us, it just doesn’t. Take my recent Thanksgiving. The Evil Overlord was going to be working out-of-town the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Thanksgiving Day. The Evil Overlord’s sister had to work Thanksgiving Day, but was available later that night. My sister, Angi, was having Thanksgiving with her husband’s side of the family on Thanksgiving day, and she had to leave immediately afterwards for some kind of roller derby camp thing. Yes, seriously. Here’s a couple of short videos of me tormenting her at one of her matches. Hey, what are big brothers for?

Okay. Obviously, the weekend after Thanksgiving wasn’t an option and doing it the weekend before, well, that just doesn’t have the same vibe, does it? So I took a deep breath, cringed, and asked for Wednesday and Thursday off. I asked to be home by Tuesday night just to be sure I’d get there for my mom’s dinner on Wednesday. I should also mention that I put in for this home time two weeks in advance. So everything is set, right? Well, perhaps now I should explain why I was cringing when I asked for Wednesday and Thursday off.

Stress #2: Logistics

Okay. Due to the way my company’s freight moves, it’s extremely hard to get home in the middle of the week. Well, I was sitting right close to home on Tuesday, but I was under a two-stop load that had to be delivered on Wednesday. If they couldn’t find a relay close to home, I was going to have to go 150 miles away to deliver the first stop and then hope they could find someone to take it on from there. Well, to go completely again my blow-hard nature, I’ll give you the short version. Consider that an early Christmas present.

Basically, they couldn’t find anyone to take my load and I was sitting 300 miles away from home on Wednesday evening. Remember, I was supposed to be home the night before. I used the rest of my hours to pick up my load home. But guess what? It had been double-booked and another company had already picked it up. Wouldn’t you know it? Thankfully, they had another load going to the same place that was ready seven days early. Yea. Who says miracles don’t exist?

Anyway, by then I was out of hours and I didn’t get home until Thursday afternoon. So I totally missed Wednesday’s dinner with my side of the family and I barely made it home in time to eat with The Evil Overlord’s side. Then the wench left for work the following morning, so I got to see her for about 20 whole hours. Seven hours of that we were sleeping and the other 13 she was busy shooing me and the nephews out of the kitchen. Now seems like a good time to say, “That’s trucking.” Ugh. Someone hit me with a shovel.

So you can see, even when you have everything worked out, that doesn’t mean your company does. Sometimes they just don’t have people where they need them to be. But say they do. That’s where we run into our next problem.

Stress #3: Weather

Unfortunately, the holiday season falls in winter. And unless you have white hair and your name is Storm, I doubt you have any control over the weather. Now I can hear some of you weather nerds out there, *in my best nasally voice* “Well if you just watch The Weather Channel, you’ll be safe.” Seriously? The last time I checked, most meteorologists are about as accurate as Stevie Wonder shooting a free throw. But for the sake of argument, let’s say the pretty weather girl does get tomorrow’s weather correct.

So now if your dispatcher tries to send you into a blizzard two days before you’re due home, you know to tell him to take the pencil he’s holding and pretend it’s a suppository… in the nicest possible way, of course. But what about a full week before you’re supposed to be home? The weather is fine where you’re currently heading and you should have plenty of time to get back home; right? Well, at a week out even the best of meteorologists…, well, let’s just say old Stevie may as well be shooting from half court. So now you’re facing bad weather on your way back home.

Or maybe you didn’t even come back the same route. Maybe you thought you’d be coming straight back, but instead freight had you jumping 150 miles north and now that storm you figured you’d miss is coming at you like a bull chasing little red riding hood. And suppose this time when you tell your dispatcher to insert his pencil, he tells you that it’s the only load moving towards home. Heading any other direction at this point would guarantee you won’t get home in time. Hey look! I was wrong! There is a guarantee in trucking! That is precisely what happened to me at Thanksgiving.

I was sitting in Dallas on Monday when I got the news. Nothing heading towards home today, but there was a load going that way tomorrow morning (Tuesday-the day I was due home). That load was my only choice. I knew it ran straight up through my house, but I also knew it had two stops that had to be delivered 150 and 300 miles away at the same time I was supposed to be stuffing pumpkin pie down my pumpkin pie hole at my sister’s house. What to do? Well, like I said, that was my only option. And before any of you drivers say anything, I’d like to take a second to address something here.

Some of you drivers are just too freakin’ paranoid. The Evil Overlord was certainly one of you. She always had the idea that everyone at our trucking company was out to screw us. I’ve talked with lots of dispatchers over the years, and trust me; they don’t want to listen to you complain about not getting home. They aren’t sitting at their desk yearning for you to call and ask them if there’s any freight moving towards home… for the eighth time. No; if they had a load that would get you out of their hair, they’d give it to you. So lighten up, guys and gals. Sure, your dispatcher is trying to get the most work out of you that they can, but I think most of them would just rather get you home on time to keep you from whining for the next two weeks. If you’ve got stories that prove me wrong, well that’s what TruckerDump@gmail.com is for. Write in and tell me about ’em.

Okay. I’m done with my rant. Now on to the next stress-causing problem.

Stress #4: Laws

When was the last you non-truckers were told you couldn’t drive to Grandma’s house because you’d be breaking the law? Truckers deal with this all the time, not just during the holidays. But it’s extra stressful during the holidays. Truckers have set time limits we can drive per day and per week. If we break those rules and get caught by the fuzz, it’s a stiff fine. If our company is the only one to catch it, then we can face penalties including suspension for a few days, or worse, having to watch safety videos. Yeesh!

Under normal circumstances, we truckers know how many hours we have and we’ll wield this information when dispatch tries to get us too far from home. But as any trucker will tell you, trucking is anything but normal. There are so many things out of our control. What happens when a shipper takes 4 hours longer to load you than you expected? Happens all the time. What if you needed those 4 hours to get home? Instead, you find yourself taking a mandatory 10-hour break 4 hours from the house. And what are the chances someone who is already busy with holiday festivities is going to drive 500 miles round trip to come get you and take you home? Probably about as good as Stevie making that half-court shot. Poor Stevie. I just keep banging on you. 😉

Anyone got a magnifying glass?

Anyone got a magnifying glass?

How about equipment issues? Take a look at the picture. Can you see a cut in the air line? Yea. I could barely see it too. But the Missouri DOT officer at the chicken coop found it. She shut me down until a repair truck came out and replaced it. If that had happened this Thanksgiving, I would’ve missed both my family gatherings.

Mechanical issues pop up all the time with big rigs. Now if your heater goes out or your oil pressure gauge quits working during the holidays, you’re likely to push on through and get home. But what happens when you have a flat tire? If you’re lucky enough to limp to a truck stop, your wait time could be 5 minutes or it could be 5 hours. And what about more serious issues? My truck lost all power on I-494 in St. Paul not too long ago. I waited on the side of the road for 5-6 hours for a tow truck. Then I spent the next two days in a hotel room and the next two days after that rescuing another truck so I’d have something to drive. What are the chances The Evil Overlord would have time to drive 9 hours to get me and 9 hours back. Poor old Stevie’s had enough. I won’t go there again, but you get the idea.

Yes, you non-truckers could have automobile issues or have a plane grounded, but how often does that really happen? I’ll rest my case on this one.

Stress #5: Shopping

Okay. I’m going to give it to you that the Internet has made this a heck of a lot easier than it used to be. I remember a time when you had to cram all your Christmas shopping into your limited home time. Thankfully, those days are over. But there’s still the problem of what to buy for people. We truckers are on the road so much that it’s hard to know anyone well enough to know what they might like for Christmas.

I love my nephews, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’d don’t have a clue what they want for Christmas. Thankfully, The Evil Overlord knows and she’s in her element when she’s got a debit card in her hand. I’d say she needs a debit card holster strapped to her hip, but it seems unnecessary. Her arms move faster than a hummingbird’s wings when she goes to whip that thing out of her purse. I’m looking forward to the day I’ll have an iPhone with slow-motion capture so I can analyze her technique.

There’s only one thing worse than not knowing what the people in your life want for Christmas; not caring. Here’s something that boggles my mind. Yes, it’s another mini-rant. I’ve talked to a few different truck stop cashiers that tell me that some drivers save up their rewards points all year long and buy all their Christmas presents at the truck stop. Say what? Listen, I know my taste is horrendous, but even I know not to buy Christmas gifts at a truck stop. For one, everything is more expensive there. Secondly, most of the stuff is crap; especially the electronics and elcheapo stuffed toys. Thirdly, I’d be shocked if anyone really enjoyed those presents. And lastly, it screams “I couldn’t bother to go anywhere out of my way to get you something you might actually like.”

Listen, I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of this at some point. I remember when The Evil Overlord and I first started trucking, we bought some toy trucks with our company logo on them and gave them to some of the kids in our life. Some kids like toy trucks so that’s probably fine. But I know that we also got other company-logoed merchandise for other relatives. Not good. I remember one Christmas when my sister had started a new job. She bought everyone in the family clothing with the company logo. Now this wasn’t a fashionable company like Coca-Cola or anything. It was a friggin’ financial institution. Talk about plastering on a fake smile.

My sister meant well. We meant well. Maybe you mean well. But do you really or are you just being lazy? Kid’s love toy trucks. Fine. But trust me. If you’ve given Christmas gifts with your company logo on it for more than one year, the people in your life are dreading your gift this year. Don’t believe me? Get them something good for a change of pace and you’ll see the difference on their face Christmas morning. *steps off soapbox* I’m sure someone is going to disagree with me here. Tell me how wrong I am at TruckerDump@gmail.com.

Well, there you have it; the 5 Stresses of Trucking Through the Holidays. The next time you non-truckers feel the urge to whine about how stressful the holiday season is, just be glad you aren’t trying to do it all from the cab of a big rig. As you can now see, we truckers are already stressed out during the holidays, so please remember that as you’re driving around this season. And also a quick reminder that the crap we’re hauling is the crap you’re buying. So please save your middle finger for that soccer mom who just took the last Big Hugs Elmo.

TD78: A Trucker’s Thanksgiving

Well, it’s that time of year again. It’s time to slap-fight your siblings for the drumstick and have spoon duels over the last dollop of Cool Whip, because we all know pumpkin pie just ain’t right until you can’t see the plate beneath the pie.

More importantly though, it’s time to look around us and give thanks for everything we have. For being blessed with an annoying brother who called dibs on the drumstick before you. For your superior health, which enables you to punch him hard enough to leave a giant bruise. For the job that you hate. You know, the job that put that turkey on the table. The job that paid your bills all year. The job that the dude in the unemployment line would kill for. Yes, I know I’m among the guiltiest in this regard. Thanks for pointing that out. Now shut your face.

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So that’s what I’m here to do today: count my blessings. And since I’m such a ooey-gooey, touchy-feely, sentimental kinda guy, I’ll do so in my typical fashion. Here are the things that this trucker is thankful for. As expected, let’s start out with:

  • Thanks to the inventors of electronic logs for wasting my valuable time. As if my trips to the mall with The Evil Overlord weren’t enough torture for one man.
  • Thanks to the driver who insists on going the speed limit in the fast lane. I hadn’t realized it was your job to police me. Thanks for keeping me in line.
  • Thanks to all those drivers who slow down when you see a cop, even when you’re not speeding. I hear that if a cop sees you do this, he’ll pull you over and give you an ice cream cone.
  • Thanks to all you good folks who overspend your budgets. Your greed = my freight.
  • Thanks to all the credit card companies who promote this overspending. May your consciences be clear as you sleep on your $800 pillow lined with kitten fur.
  • Thank you to the medical profession for extending life expectancy. It’s going to take every last second of life to pay off these stinkin’ credit cards. Dang. My balance just went up again. Who knew there was such thing as a badmouthing fee?
  • Thanks to all the rubberneckers who bring traffic to a near standstill, even though whatever is happening is on the opposite side of the highway.
  • Thanks to that police officer who issues me a ticket for having a light out. You know, one of those three tiny, but extremely crucial clearance lights that are above my trailer doors. Whew! Did you see that? That airplane almost rear-ended me!
  • Thanks to all the drivers who try to close the gap when I flip my turn signal on to switch lanes. No worries. It’s not like I can’t take the spot after you pass. Aw crap. The next guy punched it too. And the next… And the next…
  • Thanks to all the truckers who tailgate 4-wheelers. Nothing says “professional” quite like a rear-view mirror full of grille.
  • Thanks to the woman who puts on her makeup in 65 mph rush hour traffic. We all know how important it is to look pretty when there’s an open casket.
  • Thanks to all those 4-wheelers who like to hang out in a trucker’s blind spots. Oh well. Out of sight, out of mind. Never you mind that pesky turn signal light that’s making the side of your face glow.
  • Thanks to the driver who locks up his brakes in front of me because he missed his turn. I’ve really been needing to check the integrity of my brakes. Too bad they work.
  • Thanks to the DOT, the FMCSA, the CSA, and all the other organizations who love truckers enough to regulate them. It’s nice to know that you can make me log it if it takes more than 7 minutes to pee, but you can’t make a receiver unload me in less than 3 hours.
  • Thanks to the trucker who parks in front of the fuel islands for extended periods of time. Yes, I know you had fuel card problems. I saw your fuel receipt through the Subway bag with toilet paper stuck to it.
  • Thanks to all the drivers who figure out where the gas pedal is after I start to pass you.
  • Thanks to all the 4-wheelers who go 5 mph under the speed limit on 2-lane highways. It’s a good thing I’m not driving this truck to make money or anything.
  • Thanks to the driver who writes SHOW YOUR HOOTERS in the dust on the back of the trailer. Public opinion: 1 Trucker’s reputation: 0
  • Thanks to the truck who parks crookeder than a homemade TV antenna. I hope you weren’t emotionally attached to that side-view mirror.
  • Thanks to the state of California for making us truckers stay in the far right lanes. It’s not like that’s where all the other vehicles are trying to enter the roadway or anything.
  • I’d also like to thank California for making trucks go 55 mph. We all know how dangerous those tumbleweeds can be.
  • Thanks to the driver who pulls out in front of me from a side street. I’ve been meaning to work on my slalom skills.
  • Thanks to my company for banning all cooking devices from my truck. There’s nothing quite like a cold bowl of Captain Crunch on a blustery winter’s night.
  • Thanks to the inattentive or unyielding trucker who won’t back out of it for two seconds so a slightly faster truck can get around him quicker. I’m sure all those drivers stuck behind you will be talking about the nice trucker when they get to work.
  • Thanks to the DOT for their hours-of-service rules. How would I know when I’m tired without your infinite wisdom?
  • Thanks to the drivers who feel the need to go 25 mph in a 45 mph construction zone. Good thing you’re clairvoyant. Those construction workers are always putting up the wrong speed limit signs.
  • Thanks to all the businesses who put up NO TRUCK PARKING signs. I nearly forgot that my money is less valuable than everyone else’s.
  • Thanks to all the worthless pile of dung truckers who use these parking lots as trash bins and toilets. I’m sure that has absolutely nothing to do with those NO TRUCK PARKING signs.
  • Thanks to all you 4-wheelers who are so kind as to allow me to hang out in the fast lane after I’ve scooted over to help you merge onto the highway. Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were on the phone.
  • Speaking of on-ramps and phones, thanks to the driver who can’t be bothered to put away his cell phone as he’s barreling down the on-ramp. I guess the two cars to the left of me forgot to use their X-ray vision to see you trying to push me over. I know, right? What a waste of super powers.
  • And yet again, thanks to all those wishy-washy 4-wheelers who can’t make a decision when they get to the end of the on-ramp. Yes, I know being 3 car-lengths ahead of me will make it an impossibly tight fit, but why don’t you try anyway.
  • Thanks to the Christians who write Bible verses on the bathroom walls. Nothing says “Jesus loves you” quite like vandalizing someone’s property.
  • Thanks to all the shippers and receivers who value my time so much. Everyone deserves a 5-hour nap in the middle of their workday. Right?
  • Thanks to the soccer mom who cuts across three lanes in front of me to get to her exit ramp. My doctor has been saying I need to increase my heart rate more often.
  • Thanks to the person who flips me the bird for riding out in the left-hand lane. Clearly I misread that sign that read, TRUCKS LEFT LANE ONLY. My bad.
  • Thanks to all the good citizens who vote for anti-idling laws for trucks. While you may not die from harmful gas inhalation, you’ve dramatically increased your shot at getting run over by a trucker who was unsuccessfully trying to sleep in a pool of his own sweat.
  • And finally, thanks to the truck stop owners who wants $37 for a small bottle of Pepto-Bismol. When you’re looking for your place of torment in hell, just follow the signs that say, EXPLOITED A DIARRHEA SUFFERER.
Well, there you have it; a list of things to be thankful for. Yes, I know. Heartfelt is my middle name. That’s just me.

So, what are you thankful for this Turkey Day? As soon as you get done clobbering your brother with that drumstick you stole, why don’t you pop on over to the comments section and leave your thoughts. I’d appreciate it if you’d wash your hands first. I don’t want you touching my comments sections with those greasy turkey fingers. I swear. We can’t have anything nice in this house.

Photo by r_gnuce via Flickr